Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Rain just began this Wednesday afternoon, and it's all Sooz's fault! She went into town with our neighbor Peter yesterday and picked up a nice big umbrella for our table. We put it up today, and sure enough, it began to sprinkle 10 minutes later.

Other than that, things are good. We had our first dinner on the deck with Annika and Olle Sunday night, and we decided at the last minute to go to Namdö for the evening concert at the church, which was superb. On Monday, Peter and Jeanette came by for drinks with their sons Nicholas and Sebastian, and Seb's dog, Pongo. We came by Ann & Dave's house afterwards for dessert and got a great moose sighting!!!

Our friend Tonia came to visit yesterday, and we've been having a good time hanging out in the drizzle. With a bit of luck, this will help lower the temperature and humidity...

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Lots going on!

I finished the deck, finally, Friday morning. Drilling all those screws (672 of them) took a lot longer than I thought. Complicating the task was that it's been so damned hot this week. I know it's perverse to complain about sunny days while on vacation, but it has been borderline uncomfortable out on the deck, working the drill all day.

The whole country has been around 30°C (85°F) this week, and frankly, Swedes aren't built for that. Houses are built to catch the sun, not be shaded from it. Air conditioning isn't prevalent. I've heard about runs on cooling fans at local stores, and an increase in admissions to hospitals. Out here in Aspö, though, we're just sticking to the shade and dipping into the Baltic to cool off if necessary. Gin and tonics also help, too.

Friday was also the launch of our neighbour Claes' new book on the history of Aspö. He held a little party at his house, and we saw lots of residents, some we hadn't met before. So that was a treat.

Today, we went with Olle and Annika to the Nämdö Day, which is a little yearly festival held on that island. There was a big tent of items for sale, a beer garden (me and Ole's favourite!) and various other island activities. I got to meet Nilla, my contact on the broadband project. She was amazed to meet her email buddy all the way from Texas. It looks like we'll have the fast internet on Aspö next summer, if you're optimistic, and the summer of 2016 if you're realistic.

We had lunch and then went back home to do a bit of swimming and kayaking in the surprisingly warm sea. Many photos are on the flickr page.

Tomorrow evening is a concert at the church on Nämdö, and we'll join Olle and Annika for that as well. It's great to have such generous and well-connected neighbours!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A couple of milestones

First, I can't say that the deck is done, but it is nearly, nearly done. I have 42 boards to secure with 16 screws each. I thought I could get it all done today, but I underestimated the time it took to get set up. It took me about 6 hours to secure 25 boards with 8 screws each, and man, was I beat at the end of the day! (Here's today's timelapse video.)

I'll do the remaining 17 tomorrow, and then I assume the remainder of screws on each board will go faster once I have them all fixed in place. We wanted the deck to be able to catch the sun, and wow, does it! I was scorched out there.

The other milestone is this blog crossed 100,000 unique views today! Since my first post nearly 7 years ago, an average of 40 different people looked at this blog each day. I find that amazing.

In social news, we went to Nämdö yesterday with our neighbors Peter and Jeanette and their son Nicholas for dinner and a bit of shopping. Peter lent me his drill for my deck supports. It turns out that Jeanette and Sooz had parallel experiences of living in Italy in the 70's, which was fun to talk about. Nicholas is a principal at Pharmarium in Gamla Stan, the oldest part of Stockholm. He told us about their amazing cocktails, and we will make sure we visit his place as soon as we can.

Today, we had cocktails with Britt and Ronnie, and their daughters Jenny and Jessica (along with Jessica's husband Henrik and their kids). Britt and Ronnie's house is gorgeous, and we enjoyed drinks and nibbles on the water. At the end of the evening, the ladies enjoyed the horticulture, but I was far more impressed with Ronnie's robot lawn mower!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The deck is nearly done

The only thing left to do is to screw down the deck boards themselves (656 of them by my count). But we're out walking on it now. It looks great!

Here's a good time-lapse video of it going up. The 10 second stretch of laying out the boards is pretty funny. If only it was as easy as it looked.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The new deck is going up

Olle came over yesterday and we got started on building the deck. First came the frame of the deck itself, then we attached it to the house at the right level.

Sooz helped us raise it to something close to the right height. I then drilled for the supports and added 6 posts to secure it.

We stopped for the day after that; Olle had to go back to Stockholm for the week. I hope I can get the frame raised to a level height today and secured to the posts. Then it should be a straightforward job to add the decking!

There are a few pictures and a time-lapse movie on the flickr page. More to come tomorrow!

Sunday, July 20, 2014


... means "beer tasting" in Swedish. Following on to the success of the wine tasting (vinprovning) last summer, our resident sommelier, Naima, held another tasting for the Aspö residents.

We sampled a number of different styles of beer, some of which were local to Stockholm, others from from far away. Sooz and I carried over a case of Shiner Bock, so everyone could taste a decent local Texas beer.

We stayed long into the night, talking with old friends, and meeting new ones. Additional cans of beer were provided and sampled! Photos are on the new July/August flickr page.

Between all the sampling and our jet lag, we slept until 9 this morning. Now to doze in the summer sunshine today...

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Our arrival

We're here, all safe and sound. Once again, our logistical chain worked perfectly. We arrived on Aspö with just exactly as much stuff as we could possibly carry. One more can of herring or box of nails would've tipped us over, I think.

As a bonus, the weather is perfect. It's going to be a great 3 weeks!

Here's a fun little video of our dropcam's record of our arrival and subsequent evening in timelapse form.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Road safety in Sweden

I've read recently about Sweden's great success in improving road safety. Fewer people die on Sweden's roads than any other country in the world.

This success is partly through many changes to road construction and legislation. But more central is something much more Swedish: the willingness to set one's personal needs aside for the collective good. A number of road changes have increased cost for drivers (through congestion charges) or slowed down traffic through road barriers (farthinders, as they're called in Swedish).

All of this has been done with far less grumbling than one might expect here in the USA. The number of lives saved, and the collective will to accomplish this, is a real source of pride in Sweden. A number of other countries and cities are looking at the Swedish road program, including New York.

Translating the Swedish way to New York road traffic sounds like a huge task! It will be interesting to see if this is successful.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

An Icelandic summer home

A friend recently sent me a Wall Street Journal article about a very appealing modern summer home built in the Icelandic countryside.

The WSJ jealously guards its content online, so I can't link to the article, but I did find the slideshow of house pictures. There are some parallels to our Swedish experience. It's worth a look.

Monday, July 7, 2014

A New Deck

One of the things I've written about in the past is that the deck on our house is perfect for the two (or three) of us, but not really big enough for a full table. When we've had friends over, our table is darned close to the house's glass on one side, or a drop off the deck on the other. I really should have specified a longer deck when I built the house, but I couldn't have gotten everything right, I guess!

I looked into ways to extend the deck, but, frankly, everything I thought of disturbed the look of the house too much for my tastes.

This spring, I hit upon the idea of building a deck in a different direction, not in the front of the house, but along the side. The wide steps Janne built lead down to the rocks below. That area gets a good amount of sun (handy for Sooz to work on her tan), and it's large enough area to fit a full table. On those days we have a lot of people over, it'd be easy to put the table there, and everyone can move around freely.

So I measured out an area of 4 by 5 meters (about 215 square feet) which leads out from the steps, and over the rocks below.
In the past, Janne and Olle have ordered my lumber for me, but now it's time for me to handle those things myself. Olle told me about the archipelago's lumberyard, Vindö Byggvaror. I called them and was connected to Jocke, a nice gentlemen who recently moved back from living in the US for 20 years. I think his English was better than mine!

We talked a few times, and I sent him photos of my ideas. Jocke put together a materials list for delivery to the midsommar dock on Aspö on July 16th. I sent that list to Olle, who reviewed it and suggested a few changes. Olle even drew a sketch for me!
So the plan is for all supplies to be on the dock when I arrive Friday and I'll carry it up to the house for a deck-building project. Deck-building is one of the top pastimes on Aspö, for the menfolk at least. I expect I'll be able to access lots of experience and advice from my fellow residents. I will of course update the blog with my building exploits.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Painting, the final chapter

I posted about three weeks ago about how much we liked Ove's paint job on the front of the house. Not only have we protected the wood, the house looks great, and it smells good, too!

I asked him for a quote to do the other two facades. The short side still looks perfect, but the back of the house has an issue to address.

We've kept the trees around back; many of them are quite close to the house. The shade and moisture there has allowed a bit of green growth. I hesitate to say mold or algae, but it's clear the wood there needs to be brushed off and protected.

From the wood's point of view, the front of the house was clearly too hot & dry, and the back appears to be too shady and wet. Thankfully, linseed oil paint can fix both of these problems!

Ove's price to paint the house was high by Texas standards, but not really by archipelago rates. The best news is that he thinks he can be done before we return in July! It will be great to have that all done.

We decided not to paint the guest house right now; we have to economise in some ways, and it's a simple enough job that we can do it ourselves, perhaps next year.

UPDATE: They've already started. I caught a glimpse of the workers on my dropcam, and Annika sent me a photo of the back of the house with the caption "looking good"! So it will all be done by the time we arrive, for sure.